Three Against the Wilderness

The last years and his legacy

When they left Meldrum Creek, Eric and Lillian Collier moved back to Riske Creek. Eric Collier died on 15 March 1966. An extract from his obituary can be read in Chilcotin: Preserving Pioneer Memories by Veera Bonner, Witte Sisters, Irene E. Bliss, Hazel Henry Litterick (pages 95-96).

The provincial archives of British Columbia hold an interview with Eric Collier, recorded in 1964 by Imbert Orchard.

Three Against the Wilderness is referred to by Elizabeth Furniss in her book The Burden of History: Colonialism and the Frontier Myth in a Rural Canadian Community, published by UBC Press, Vancouver in 1999.  It’s described as ‘an ethnography of the cultural politics of Native/non-Native relations in a small interior BC city — Williams Lake — at the height of land claims conflicts and tensions’. It’s available as an ebook.

Veasy Collier died in November 2012.

Veasy described his father’s last years and assessed the impact of his book.
[Click on the ‘play’ arrow to hear the interview clip below.]

14 Responses

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  1. Tony Dobson said, on April 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I just finished “Three Against the Wilderness” – a book that I should have read many years ago. It was a wonderful reading experience, and I now wish that I had used this as when I was teaching novel study in High School English.

  2. Mike Vine said, on February 5, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Three Against the Wilderness is a book that has been in my home since I was a young boy. My mother (whose name was coincidentally Lillian) gave the book to my father in 1961. My father was a life long trapper, born in 1931, was close in age to Veasy. My parents have both passed on, Mom in 2001, Dad in 2009; I now possess the book and it is one of my dearest treasures, not only for what the story tells, but for what it meant to my father.

  3. Jayne Mann said, on April 19, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    I have almost completed Three Against the Wilderness and it is one of the best books I have ever read. I can’t wait to see what happens next and am absolutely amazed at this young family’s inner strength and perseverance. I have my Bachelor of Education and this book should be taught as a novel study in High School English. It also should be made into a movie. I have several people waiting to borrow my book once I have completed it.

  4. Keith Wood said, on February 15, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Found ”Three against the wilderness” in an old house clearing over 25 years ago in Fife, Scotland. Leafing through its well dog-eared pages I started to read and just couldn’t put it down and it has been read many times by me and remains one of my favourites. I was sad to learn of Veasy Collier’s passing in 2012.
    Thank you James Stewart.

  5. John Hankins said, on November 17, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Truly an amazing life they led through hardships and good times – true pioneers.

  6. Adrian said, on January 2, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    I read the book when I was about 14 now have just finished it once more, nearly 40 years later. I love it.

  7. Muriel L (France) said, on August 27, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    I’m a French woman. I read the book “La Rivière des Castors” (Three Against the Wilderness) in French when I was 14. For me it’s the most important book in my life, because I’m working in environment in France, because I’ve read it. Thank you Mister Collier.

    • chabert debis said, on November 30, 2018 at 6:44 am

      Bonjour Muriel, je viens d’achever la lecture de ” La Riviere des Castors”. Je l’avais eu en cadeau de Noel en 1961 et l’avais lu à l’age de 8 ans. j’ai aujourd’hui 62 ans et sa lecture m’a a nouveau enthousiasmé. quelle belle aventure, je vais me rendre sur place à Williams Lake, pour passer sur les traces de Eric , Lilian et Veasy, en Colombie Britannique. ce sera une belle aventure…

      • Joel Laty said, on May 24, 2019 at 3:00 am

        Bonjour Chabert Debis, je viens de passer à Riske Creek sur la route 20 à l’Ouest de Williams Lake, BC. La cabane des Colliers se trouve à 22km au nord de Riske Crrek. Colliers Meadows est accessible par 4X4 par temps sec à partir de la route Stack Valley Rd. Je n’y suis pas allé car je n’ai pas de 4X4 et en plus il pleuvait…
        Moi aussi j’avais lu ” La Rivière des Castors” étant gamin en France. Dans l’ouest canadien depuis 1974 j’ai finalement localisé la cabane d’Eric Colliers et sa famille. J’espère y aller un jour!

  8. dave lucas said, on October 8, 2016 at 11:14 am

    I first read the book in 1976 when I was working on the beam trawler Sara Maria out of Porth Penrhyn, Bangor, North Wales. It is still one of my favourite books. As I reach the autumn of my years, one of the few things left in my bucket list is to visit Eric’s house. His book has inspired me through the many setbacks of my life, though nothing to compare with the hardships he overcame.
    Dave Lucas. 8th October 2016. Runcorn, UK.

  9. Derek Court said, on July 17, 2017 at 3:12 am

    I just finished reading “Three against the Wilderness” in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down.
    An amazing story of a man who walked away from an urban life in England to the early 1900s wilderness of central British Columbia.
    A trapper who was also a conservationist and years ahead of his time in his outlook on preserving wildlife and the environment.
    I’ve travelled from Vancouver to Prince Rupert in the dead of winter when the temps were a bone-chilling -45 celsius. I couldn’t even imagine riding horseback in chest deep snow……….
    Over 20 years ago I spent a 7 day river rafting trip from the Lake Chilco headwaters down to the Chilcotin river and eventually ending at the mighty Fraser. Very close to the location of the novel. It was late August and the salmon were running, bears eating fish in the rivers, First Nations fishing, moose, deer, cattle ranches…….It’s all still there with only a few areas reminding you of modern living.
    Even the forest fires!
    Beautiful country and this book brought back some fine memories.
    An excellent novel.

  10. Patricia said, on October 2, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    I first read this book as a teenager in the 60,s and again many times over the years. Each reading gave me something else to think about. Each time I read it I get something more from it. What a beautiful legacy to leave behind and share. My daughter has read it as often as I have and lives close to where it took place. We both treasure this rare gift.

  11. Dave said, on November 12, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    I am halfway through the book, having read it as part of a Canadian Literature course at the University of Victoria in 1971-2. My copy is falling apart – the binding has been drying out for years – but I’m persisting because the story is ageless and profound. I will try to visit the homestead when next in the area.

  12. Friends of Cedarvale said, on April 2, 2019 at 2:12 am

    I went back to this book recently, having just read “Eager – The secret life of beavers and why they matter” by Ben Goldfarb. It stands up very well, although it was his only book. I listened to the interview with his son, Veasy, who died in about 2011.
    John Cummings, 1st April 2019.

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